Miracle in Morgantown
By John Antonik for MSNsportsNET.com
October 15, 2005
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – Freshman Steve Slaton ran for 188 yards and scored a school-record six touchdowns to lead No. 25 West Virginia to a 46-44, triple-overtime victory over No. 19 Louisville in a battle for first place in the Big East Conference Saturday in Morgantown. Slaton’s six TDs -- all in the second half -- ties a Big East record set by Miami’s Willis McGahee against Virginia Tech in 2002.
West Virginia overcame a 17-point second-half deficit to produce its biggest comeback victory since joining the Big East in 1991, and the second largest comeback at Mountaineer Field at Milan Puskar Stadium. West Virginia overcame a 19-point fourth-quarter deficit to defeat Maryland, 34-33 in 1992. Making the game even more remarkable for West Virginia was the fact that it scored all 46 of its points in the second half to snap a three-game streak of not scoring a second-half TD in games against East Carolina, Virginia Tech and Rutgers.
“Our guys showed some heart today and our young guys really grew up,” said an elated West Virginia coach Rich Rodriguez. “Guys kept battling and battling and all we had to do was make one play at the end and we did that.
“It’s a great win for us, we’ll enjoy it for one night, but we’ll get back to work tomorrow. But I will enjoy it tonight, I promise you that,” Rodriguez added.
The turnaround was truly remarkable considering Louisville so completely dominated the first half of play, producing a 294-56 advantage in total yards and possessing a more than two-to-one margin in time of possession. In fact, West Virginia (6-1, 3-0) had minus one yard passing.
The Cardinals built 10-0 lead in second quarter on an Art Carmody field goal and then extended it to 17 before the half when Brian Brohm connected with Joshua Tinch on an 18-yard TD pass with seven seconds left.
Rodriguez noticed his young team was down in the locker room and he did his best to pick them back up.
“We didn’t execute on offense for a long time,” said Rodriguez. “Not only were we down; it wasn’t even a ball game. They were in control of the game and they controlled the ball. We told our guys to keep climbing out of the well and eventually we got out of there and had a chance.”
The Mountaineers finally got on the board on its opening drive of the second half to trim Louisville’s lead to 10. WVU used a 10-play, 78-yard drive that was culminated when Slaton took an Adam Bednarik swing pass and turned it into a 14-yard touchdown.
The Cardinals (4-2, 0-2) appeared to regain control of the game when it answered with a 15-play, 65-yard drive that reached the end zone when Michael Bush ran the ball in from the four. Louisville led 24-7.
It was at that point with 6:04 remaining in the third quarter that about a quarter of the fans headed for the exits, subsequently missing one of the biggest comebacks in school history.
Louisville actually had the football at the start of the fourth quarter and the West Virginia defense came up with a fourth and one stop at its own 34 when Brohm’s pass to a wide open Gary Barnidge was dropped.
West Virginia assumed possession of the football and was looking at a second and 20 at its own 34 when freshman Pat White had to return to the game to replace Bednarik, who sprained his foot after being sacked by linebacker Brandon Johnson.
White ran for six and then hit flanker Darius Reynaud for a 16-yard pass on third and 14 to move the ball to the Louisville 44. A pass interference call added 15 more yards to the Louisville 28, and White was able to scramble for 17 yards on a fourth and 10 play to move the football to the 11. Two plays later, Slaton was able to slip in from four yards out to reduce Louisville’s lead to 10, 24-14.
“Toward the end of the third quarter we were still down by 10 or something and I looked over into the corner of the stadium and I saw a full moon,” Rodriguez said. “I’m thinking strange things are happening here.”
Sensing the opportunity was right, Rodriguez called for an onside kick it had been practicing all week against Louisville’s kickoff return team. Kicker Pat McAfee lofted a short kick to the nearside of the field where the closest Louisville player was blocked 10 yards past the ball and Thandi Smith recovered the football at the West Virginia 48.
“When we cut it to 17-7 I was thinking of doing the surprise kick then, but I didn’t do it and they drove right down the field and went up 24-7,” Rodriguez said. “When we got the surprise kick the second time I thought, well, we’re on our way.
“The way Pat was consistently kicking it in practice, our guys were begging for it,” Rodriguez said. “They executed it perfectly.”
The Mountaineers drove to the Louisville six and were faced with a fourth and two with 4:35 left on the clock. After trading timeouts, Rodriguez chose to kick the field goal and McAfee made a 28-yard chip shot to cut Louisville’s lead to 24-17.
“We were going to try and draw them offside,” Rodriguez admitted. “But we had a play called if they gave us the look we wanted. They didn’t, so we took the delay of game, backed it up and kicked the field goal.”
The Cardinals could have milked clock and forced West Virginia to burn its timeouts, but couldn’t get a first down – the only three and out possession they had all game.
Todd Flanery’s 33-yard punt was returned 12 yards by Vaughn Rivers to the Louisville 40. Slaton got the Mountaineers to the 24 on a 16-yard run, and White 10-yard pass to Dorrell Jalloh gave them a fourth and one at the Louisville 15 with less than two minutes remaining. Operating out of the shotgun, White was able to reach the corner and run for 12 yards to the Louisville three. Two plays later Slaton got in from the one, and McAfee’s PAT tied the game at 24.
With the ball deep in its own territory and with only one timeout remaining, Louisville chose to run out the clock and play for the win in overtime.
In the first overtime, fullback Owen Schmitt ran 23 yards to the Cardinal two, and Slaton got in the next play to give WVU its first lead of the game, 31-24 after McAfee’s PAT.
Brohm answered for Louisville, firing a 10-yard pass to Mario Urrutia on third and nine at the WVU 10.
Louisville got the lead back in the second overtime when Bush scored from 14 yards, but the Mountaineers answered when Slaton was able to get to the outside and cover 23 yards for his fifth TD. Slaton’s sixth came on WVU’s possession in the third overtime after Schmitt moved the ball 20 yards on a third-and-eight screen pass, carrying three Cardinal tacklers to the three. Two plays later, Slaton twisted through the pile from a yard out to make it 44-38, West Virginia.
The Mountaineers were required to go for the two-point conversion during the third overtime and Rodriguez called a rollout that White could either run or throw the ball to a pair of receivers dragging from across the field. White picked the deep receiver Jalloh who secured the pass to give WVU an eight-point, 46-38 advantage.
“We were running a sprint out and they had showed mostly man coverage in their goal line defense but in that case they ran a zone,” Rodriguez explained. “We had one guy deep in the end zone and one guy shallow in the end zone and kind of had two on one there.
“We had practiced it most of the time against man to the underneath guy and Pat did a good job seeing the deep guy in the back of the end zone,” Rodriguez said.
On Louisville’s possession, Bush was able to score a three-yard TD – his fourth – setting up the two-point play to extend the game. Brohm went back to pass, but was flushed out of the pocket and took off for the goal line. WVU safety Eric Wicks peeled off his man and tackled Brohm just short of end zone.
Rodriguez admitted he didn’t even know what defense coordinator Jeff Casteel called on the last play of the game.
“I was looking at the moon,” he laughed.
Slaton’s effort overshadowed an impressive performance by Bush of Louisville, who ran 37 times for 159 yards and scored four touchdowns. Brohm completed 31 of 49 passes for 277 yards and a pair of touchdowns. Tinch caught a career-high 13 passes for 130 yards and a touchdown.
In addition to Slaton’s 188 yards, White gained 69 yards on 11 carries and Schmitt added 24 on just two tries. The Mountaineers finished the game running 53 times for 281 yards.
“I can’t say enough how our backs ran Slaton and Schmitt and how Pat White played when he got in there as well,” Rodriguez said.
Louisville, coming off a 69-point performance at Papa John’s Stadium last weekend against North Carolina and having scored at least 60 points in each of its home games, is now 1-2 away from home having also lost a conference game at South Florida.
West Virginia retains sole possession of first place in the Big East standings with a 3-0 record and has an important conference road game coming up at South Florida next Saturday. That contest will kickoff at 7 pm and will be televised by ESPNU. The Bulls lost to Pitt earlier today 31-17 at home to drop top 3-3 overall and 1-1 in conference action.
UL – Bush 5 run (Carmody kick)
Rushing: UL – Bush 37-159, Douglas 1-13, Brohm 4-10, Stripling 2-0, Total 44-182; WV – Slaton 31-188, White 11-69, Schmitt 2-24, Bednarik 9-0, Total 53-281.
Passing: UL – Brohm 31-49-1-277-2; WV – Bednarik 8-16-0-60-1, White 5-11-0-49-0, Total 13-27-0-109-1.
Receiving: UL – Tinch 13-130, Urrutia 7-58, Douglas 3-34, Bush 3-19, Stripling 1-14, Jones 1-9, Kuhn 1-7, Barnidge 1-4, Taylor 1-2, Total 31-277; WV – Reynaud 3-46, Slaton 3-20, Myles 2-9, Rivers 2-minus 1, Schmitt 1-20, Jalloh 1-10, Stancheck 1-5, Total 13-109.
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